“You will be proud of our boys when I tell of the splendid way they went over the top”

The first bloody day of the Battle of the Somme”>Battle of the Somme was described to Earley churchgoers by one of their lads who was wounded that day.

The Great Attack of July 1st

One of our old CLB and Sunday School boys now wounded writes:

My wound is most serious and I progress favourably. I still have bullet in my leg though, but am going to have it taken out soon. You will be proud of our boys when I tell of the splendid way they went over the top. We had a busy and sleepless night on the Friday. We all knew what the morrow meant, and were waiting in eager anticipation of coming to grips: it is a feeling which comes over you suddenly and makes you see red. Well, we saw red.

At 7.30 our colonel blew the whistle, and the line advanced. It was splendid; looking right and left, one could see a single even line “charging” at the walk. We were the first line over. Their artillery had been smashed by ours before, but oh! the machine gun fire we came under was hell itself, and we suffered.

When we got to the German line the enemy dead were piled in heaps; the sight was awful, but our boys stuck it and were just as though on the parade ground. It was a spirit never to be forgotten. We had captured three of their lines before I was hit. It was bloody work indeed, they do not like our bayonet at all, and I managed to get back to our lines after two hours struggle for the German machine gunners are cowards; if they saw a wounded man crawling back to safety, or in a shell hole, they would train their guns on him and give him an unpleasant time. This was one of my experiences; I got through though.

A Newbury man was among the many reported missing:

We deeply regret to hear that 2nd Lieut. Basil Henry Belcher has been reported missing in France after an attack on July 1st.

Meanwhile Florence Vansittart Neale was optimistic back home in Bisham.

1 July 1916
The great push began – we took La Boiselle. Going on well.

Earley parish magazine, September 1916 (D/P192/28A/14); Newbury parish magazine, August 1916 (D/P89/28A/13); Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

“Our soldiers, sailors and flying men need our prayers

New Year’s Eve was set to be the first of three special days of national prayer for the war. Several Berkshire parishes give us their slant on it. The vicar of All Saints, Dedworth also had a story from the Front about attitudes to the enemy.

All Saints’, Dedworth

The year 1916 still sees us engaged in a war even more terrible than the beginning of 1915. The Nation is bidden by its spiritual leaders, the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church to keep Friday, December 31st, as a day of special prayer and intercession. Saturday, January 1st, is to be a day of preparation for Communion, which all are asked to make on Sunday, January 2nd. The duty of the Church is to carry on the fight against the World, Flesh and Devil, and it is the duty of the Church’s officers to lead in that fight. The response at times to that call seems small, it may be larger than it looks, but at any rate it makes the work as hard, if not harder, to carry on than other warfare. How grand has been the response to carry arms for King and Country, but the real victory for which we are fighting will not be won unless at the end we are a Nation nearer to God; having shown to the world that Christianity is the greatest power in war and peace.

Mr. Begbie narrates the following from behind the English lines in France:-

“The other day a doctor fell in with a British soldier whose blood was maddened by what he had seen of the German treatment of our wounded men. ‘Do you know what I mean to do,’ he demanded, ‘when I come across one of their wounded? I mean to put my boot in his ugly face.’ The doctor replied, ‘No you won’t; it’s not your nature. I’ll tell you what you will do – you’ll give him a drink out of your water-bottle.’ To which the soldier after a pause, in which he searched the doctor’s face, made grumbling and regretful answer, ‘Well, may be I shall.’”

Reading St John

Mr Rogers has now been moved up to the Front. He is where he wished to be when he offered for service as a Chaplain, and where he will have the opportunity of speaking to men at the most solemn moment of their lives of the things that matter eternally. We shall continue to be much in prayer for him, that he may be kept from all harm, and that his messages may be with great power.

Now may I commend to your very careful notice the arrangements which have been made to enable you to observe the last day of December and the first two days of January as our King and our Archbishops and Bishops desire that they should be observed. We stand on the threshold of a year that promises to be fateful beyond any in our previous history, a year that will probably test severely our fortitude, our courage and our faith.

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“Arab treachery” in Mesoptamia

Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey continued to be worried about the war news from the east. Mesopotamia, now in Iraq, was part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire which had joined the war on the side of the Germans.

5 December 1915
Greece still uncertain, also Roumania [sic]. Meanwhile we landing troops at Salonika.

Bad setback in Mesopotamia. General Townshend had to retreat 80 miles from Bagdad [sic]. Treachery of Arabs. Chris wounded in it.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Disaster in the Dardanelles

Two former pupils of a Warfield were casualties of a failed attack.

10th September 1915
We regret to say that two Warfield lads were engaged in the unsuccessful attack at the Dardanelles on Aug 20. Philip Bowyer was killed and Edward Gale was wounded.

The girls at Abingdon Girls’ CE School, meanwhile, had the chance to see photographs of the Dardanelles campaign.

September 6th to 10th
Rev: C. E. Thomas brought Photographs which came from the Dardanelles and spoke to the girls about the War.

Warfield CE School log book (C/EL26/3); Abingdon Girls CE School log book (C/EL2/2)

Sulhamstead and the wounded

News of new recruits and wounded men dominated the Sulhamstead parish magazine this month, as Sulhamstead House (now the Police Training College) joined the ranks of war hospitals.

THE WAR
Commissions

Mr Norman Watson has been given a commission of Second Lieutenant in the Kings Royal Rifles.

Mr General Merton has gained his “wings” after many months of practice in flying and has been appointed a Second Flight Lieutenant.

The Recruiting Sergeant has been busy in Sulhamstead and in the neighbourhood. At the time of going to press it is stated that nine more recruits have been obtained in Sulhamstead.

Wounded
We regret to hear that Lieutenant Grimshaw has been seriously wounded. Although a cavalry officer, he was serving in the trenches when he received his wounds from an explosion of shrapnel causing 18 wounds. He has been brought to Guy’s Hospital.

Robert East is also amongst the wounded, and is lying at the Hospital at Birmingham.

Lieut. Noel Carter was wounded in the trenches near Ypres some weeks ago, and was taken to the hospital at Fishmongers’ Hall, London. The Scouts will be glad to hear that he has recovered and is expecting to return to France.

CONVALESCENT HOSPITAL: SULHAMSTEAD HOUSE
Sir George and Lady Watson have opened their house as a Convalescent Hospital for the wounded. Fourteen wounded soldiers were sent from the Reading Base Hospital, of whom, ten had left at the time of writing, after more than a fortnight’s stay. They were very loth to leave as they had so thoroughly enjoyed their convalescent stage at Sulhamstead House.

Sulhamstead parish magazine, June 1915 (D/EX725/3)

Wonderful generosity at a time of rising prices

Longworth fundraising for Belgian refugees amounted to what was then a substantial sum. The latest element of war work was the making of cakes for wounded soldiers.

The Longworth Belgium Fund is now closed. £42 has been sent to the Committee in Oxford, and we give below the letter of thanks addressed to Mrs. Crum as Treasurer. Further gifts may, of course, be sent to the address given on the letter.

29, Holywell
Oxford
Dear Mrs. Crum,

Thank you so very much for all you have done for us. Will you very kindly express to the people of Longworth the warm gratitude and appreciation of their efforts felt by the Oxford Committee. To subcribe and to continue subscribing so long, so regularly and so large a sum is really wonderful, specially as we know and realize how the cost of living has risen and how that makes itself felt at once by all villagers, and to all who have no large incomes. Please tell your people how much we feel indebted to them and express our sincere thanks.

Our best thanks to you yourself.
Yours very sincerely,
Monte Carlyle.

Cakes are wanted for the wounded soldiers in Red Cross Hospitals. Will any who would like to provide one regularly, give their names to Mrs. Illingworth, and she will tell them when they are wanted, and collect them for Lady Hyde, who will send them to the Hospitals.

Longworth parish magazine, June 1915 (D/P83/28A/10/6)

Almost every available man has gone to this cruel war

Almost every man from Stratfield Mortimer and Mortimer West End who could realistically serve had answered the country’s call by June 1915, the parish magazine attested. Some had paid the ultimate price.

Men with the Colours

To the lists already published there should now be added: James Flitter and Harry White, K.R.R., Ernest Merrick, M.T., A.S.C., and Herbert West, Gunner R.F.A. The last named should have been on the original list; he is now, we regret to say, in hospital at Warrington, having been seriously wounded at Hill 60 in arms and legs during the first fierce fight for that position.

We cannot refrain from reprinting the following words of Mr. Raymond Asquith, the Prime Minister’s eldest son, on the subject of his training with the 16th City of London Regiment:

“We are trying very hard to fit ourselves in the shortest possible time to kill the largest number of Germans. After recent demonstrations of their ferocious and bestial cruelty, it must be most difficult for any man of suitable age and health to apply himself to any other purpose.”

West End

This cruel war is bringing home to us day by day the awful miseries and troubles which overtake the innocent as a result of the sins of men and nations. One of the very saddest ways in which our parish has come to learn it is in the death of Captain Field, and all our hearts go out in sympathy to his family, and especially to the mother, who through long months of wearing anxiety has given us an example of the pluck and courage which the mothers of England are showing everywhere to-day. It is a bitter end after being taken prisoner while tending the wounded. May his soul rest in peace and may we be given grace to follow his example in doing our duty to our neighbour and our country.

There are several names to be added to our Roll of Honour of those serving their King and Country and our parish may now be considered to have given up almost every available man.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, June 1915 (D/P120/28A/14)

The difference between existence and living: comforts for wounded soldiers

Reading people were keen to support the wounded soldiers who had been sent to the town to be nursed. Broad Street Congregational Church was at the forefront of the effort.

COMFORTS FOR THE WAR HOSPITALS

In connection with the War Hospitals recently established in Reading a Care and Comforts Committee has been formed with Mrs Benyon as President.

The object of this committee is to add to the comfort and welfare of the wounded soldiers in Reading War Hospitals.

The War Office authorities supply them with the necessaries of life, but this committee will endeavour to provide the little “extras” which make all the difference between existence and living.

Amongst other things it is proposed to supply the following:-
1. Tobacco and cigarettes
2. Fruit and flowers
3. Cakes, etc
4. Games and cards
5. Entertainments
6. Special garments required in hospitals
7. Books, newspapers, magazines, etc
8. Stationery
9. Motor drives
10. Hospitality for relatives desiring to visit wounded soldiers, etc, etc

As we are expecting to have something like 2000 soldiers in these hospitals before long there will be abundant need for all the help that can be given in the directions indicated. We feel sure that many from Broad Street will desire to “lend a hand” and we can assure them that their help will be greatly valued.

Friends willing to help are asked to communicate with the Hon. Secretary Mr S H Hodkin, 11 Tilehurst Road, indicating whether they can give
(1) A contribution of money or (2) a contribution monthly or (3) a contribution in kind (specify what article) or (4) personal service.

A Depot – to which all gifts should be sent – has been opened at 62 Minster Street, hours 9 to 5.

It may be of interest to know that members of the Ladies’ Sewing Meeting are likely to give their attention to this excellent work before long. At present they are busy preparing for a Garden Sale which they hope to hold sometime towards the end of June, or early in July. The proceeds from this sale are to be divided between the Sunday School and the Soldiers’ Entertainment Funds. When this undertaking has been successfully completed there is a desire to share in the effort to provide comforts for the wounded soldiers.

Broad Street Church magazine, May 1915 (D/N11/12/1/14)

Gifts of rabbits lessen distress

Longworth and Charney Bassett remembered their soldiers, while rising prices caused distress for poorer families at home.

Will our readers please add the following names to their list of soldiers for whom we in Longworth are specially bound to pray – Sydney Niker, William, Fred, George and Alan Hutchings. Would not more of the men’s relations and friends like to come and join their prayers with ours at the Service in Church on Fridays at 3:30.

We acknowledge with much gratitude Lady Hyde’s kindness to the village. During the winter months she arranged with the bakers that every family where there were three children and over, should receive their bread at the same price as it was before the war, and the widows and old age pensioners received 1 cwt. of coal in the month. This and her weekly gifts of rabbits did greatly serve to lessen the distress.

CHARNEY

William C Whitfield has joined the Territorial Reserves; Ernest C Franklin has been invalided home. We shall remember them both in our intercessions.

Longworth parish magazine, May 1915 (D/P83/28A/10/5)

Crushed in the trenches

Sulhamstead was one of the parishes which were seeing increasing numbers of their young men killed or wounded. The parish magazine tells us about two individuals associated with the parish:

We regret to hear that Henry Tuttle has been brought to England wounded. He was seriously crushed by the falling in of the trenches as the result of gunshot. He is being tended at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital London.


Deaths
We regret to record … [the death] of Lieut. Commander Robert E Thoyts, R. N, son of the Rev. and Mrs Frank Thoyts.
He had been put in command of a ship at the beginning of the war, but owing probably to the severe weather in the North Sea returned home seriously ill. No hope was given of his recovery, but he lingered until March 7th…
On the 7th inst at Woodspeen Grange, Newbury, from heart failure after pneumonia, Lieutenant-Commander Robert Elmhirst Thoyts, RN, son of Frank and Rosa Thoyts, and dearly-loved husband of Kathleen Thoyts, aged thirty-four.

BURIALS
Mar. 11th at St Mary’s Church. Robert Elmhurst Thoyts, Lieutenant Commander, RN.

Sulhamstead parish magazine, April 1914 (D/EX725/3)

Greatly missed: Longworth mourns its dead – and Charney sees new recruits

Longworth and Charney remembered their soldiers:

The men from this village who are serving their country as sailors and soldiers are prayed for by name every Friday at the intercession service in church at 3:30. How glad we should be to have yet more of their friends join us there in prayer for them, and for our nation and all concerned.

ROLL OF HONOUR
Private Lewis Brooks – killed in action
Private Henry Timms – killed in action
Lewis Brooks has lived in Longworth all his life, and will be greatly missed. He and his wife were confirmed lately and made their communions in this Church in July, so short a time before he was recalled to his regiment.
Henry Timms had only been in the parish a short time, since his marriage. To both families we desire to express our most sincere sympathy.

Of Longworth men at the Front the following have been wounded: John Loader, Corporal W. Hutt, Albert Adams, Richard Painton, John Leach, but they are now either back at the Front or recovering at home. Albert Hobbs has been made Lance-corporal, and John Porter Colour-Sergeant, both in Kitchener’s Army. We shall be very glad of any further particulars for next month’s magazine.

CHARNEY
James Douglas (Territorial Reserves), Albert John Haines (Territorial Reserves) and William Sergeant (Army Service Corps) are among those who have recently joined the Army. Our prayers and good wishes go with them.

Longworth parish magazine, April 1915 (D/P83/28A/10/4)

Only a few from Wokingham have not yet offered themselves

Increasing numbers of young men from Wokingham had joined the troops. Sadly, the parish of St Sebastian had seen its first loss. The parish magazine used this as a pointed reminder to those who had, they felt, shirked their duty:

On Service. Additional Names
Barnard, Kenneth, HMS [no ship name printed]
Brant, Charles
Chapman, Fred
Garrett, William, Grenadier Guards
Longley, Frank, Berks Yeomanry
Law, Arthur
Maynard, William, 1st Hants
Maynard, Percy, 2nd Hants
Norton, Isaac
Robins, Benjamin
Rocket, Benjamin

We are sure that many will wish to join in an expression of sympathy to Mr. and Mrs. Barnard at the loss of their son, Dudley Barnard, (2nd Lieut. R.F.A.), who is the first from this parish to give up his life in his country’s service. In addition we may mention that Daniel Prater and William Maynard are prisoners of war, and that James Jewell was wounded but has returned to duty.

The friends and relations of those serving are specially asked to inform the Vicar of any alterations in or additions to the list.

We are glad to say that the number of those who could go, but who have not seen their way to offer themselves for service, is getting smaller and smaller, and we hope soon to be able to say that all those from the parish who were able to do so have offered their services.

Wokingham St Sebastian parish magazine, March 1915 (D/P154C/28A/1)

Continuous demand for books for soldiers

The parishioners of Wokingham St Sebastian are asked for contributions for use by the troops:

War Appeals.

In case anyone is hesitating as to where they can send donations or articles we may mention two appeals which have lately reached us:

1. Hon Ambulance Association ask for ‘clothing, etc., required in hospitals and convalescent homes’.

2. S.P.C.K ask for donations to provide books for our soldiers and sailors. They have already supplied books to the value of £700, and the demand, both at home and at the front, is continuous.

Wokingham St Sebastian parish magazine, March 1915 (D/P154C/28A/1)

Arrested as deserter – might be shot!

Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey was shocked when one of her favourite Belgians was arrested as an army deserter.

16 March 1915
Edie, I, Dominique & Modeste to Oxford. Went to Ruskin College to see about Louis to go Oxford. Objectionable female refused to take him as Mr Pusey would not have him near Sylvia his fiancée….

Heard poor old Jules walked off by gendarme – a deserter! Might be shot!! Pray not.

Hear now nearer 1800 prisoners taken. 30 officers. Retaken St Eloi. Gemrans beaten also by Russians. Heard Jack Farrer must lie flat for long time.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

More than was promised: Longworth supports refugees and wounded soldiers

The parishioners of Longworth contributed to the war effort in their prayers, and in their donations for war related good causes. The parish magazine for March reported:

I would remind the Diocese that the second Wednesday in Lent (February 24) is the day appointed for Intercession for Home Missions. I would suggest that, besides the ordinary subjects of intercession, we should pray especially for the work among the troops.

As our readers know, Longworth has promised to send help to the Belgian refugees in Oxford to the extent of £2 a week for three months. It is delightful to be able to do more than was promised. Help will be sent as long as subscriptions continue to come in. The amounts already received are as follows:

per Mr Webb – W.J. Church, £1; Mr E. Webb, 10s; box in Post Office, 1s 2d;
Per Mr Hunter – W. Goodenough, 2d; Mr G Hunter (six weeks), 3s; Mrs Rivers, 2d; Nurse King (ten weeks), 5s; Charles Broad, 2d; Mr Prince (sixteen weeks), £2; Miss King, 2s.6d; Mrs W. Edmonds 2s; The Rector (eight weeks) 16s; Mrs Cooper (ten weeks) 5s; Anon 9d; from Church Box £1 16s;
Per Mrs Crum – Lady Hyde £13 (thirteen weeks); Mrs Powell, £1, Mr Crum £13; Miss Liebscher 10s (twenty weeks) ; Mrs Porter 2s.

The collections on the Sundays, January 3 (Intercession day) and 10th, including the contents of the collecting box, amounted to 15s 2d, and were given to the British Red Cross Society, for the benefit of the wounded soldiers now in hospital at Faringdon.

Longworth parish magazine, March 1915 (D/P83/28A/10/3)